Monday, September 13, 2021

Census Bloodbath: No, This Is Patrick

Year: 1980
Director: Mario Landi
Cast: Sacha Pitoëff, Sacha Pitoëff, Mariangela Giordano
Run Time: 1 hour 32 minutes

Oh, Italian horror rip-offs. The fun never ends with you. Remember back in the day when Bay of Blood was advertised as a sequel to The Last House on the Left, a movie that didn't exist when Bay originally came out? Or how Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2 is a "sequel" to Dawn of the Dead that doesn't even spare a thought to the fact that a sequel to that film couldn't possibly depict the beginning of a zombie apocalypse?  Among such storied company, Patrick Still Lives is actually a venerable pillar of honesty in advertising.

Allegedly a sequel to the 1978 Ozploitation classic Patrick, this film is more of a remake, but at least it has the decency to be about a telekinetic boy named Patrick. 

By the standards of Italian horror "sequel" continuity, Patrick Still Lives might as well be The Avengers.

So let's get ourselves acquainted with Patrick (Gianni Dei, who we'll meet again in 1987's Delitti). The film's abrupt beginning shows Patrick on a roadside with a man who is presumably his father, Dr. Herschel (Sacha Pitoëff). A bottle gets thrown from a car and smacks him on the head, sending him into a coma. Cut to years later, and Dr. Herschel has assembled a ragtag group of people at a health spa in a remote Italian villa. We don't find this out till later, but the plot is obvious from the beginning so I'll spoil it: everyone has been brought here under threat of blackmail, and they are all suspected of being the bottle-thrower. Patrick may be in a coma still, but he's hooked up to the brains of three other coma patients and his telekinetic wrath causes the guests to perish one by one in spooky supernatural ways.

The guests in question are Davis (Paolo Giusti), a Tig Notaro lookalike and the son of an important banker who was involved in an accident that killed several people; Peter Suniak (John Benedy), who is a drug addict; minister Lyndon Cough (Franco Silva), who is a corrupt parliamentary minister; and Peter and Lyndon's partners Stella Randolph (Mariangela Giordano) and Sheril Cough (Carmen Russo), whose crimes would seem to be that they like to have sex.

Women, am I right?

I don't know what circle of hell I've stumbled into where all the slashers I encounter are basically just softcore pornos now, but Patrick Still Lives at least lies much more staunchly on the "slasher" side of the line than either Killing of the Flesh or Momentos de Prazer e Agonia. And curiously, though the film is obsessed with showing naked flesh (this is the type of movie where people might casually just pop a boob out at dinner, and all the women sleep naked, putting on robes when they get up - robes that do nothing to cover their nipples or vaginas), there isn't actually any sex, unless you count Patrick's bizarre telekinetic tryst with sexy blonde staff member Lidya Grant (Andrea Belfiore).

The first half of Patrick Still Lives - where the characters wander around either being naked, engaging in sub-giallo nonsense drama with lots of slapping, or both - is beyond repair. If you really want to see boobs that bad in 2021, there are much easier ways to do that than bootlegging a stupid Italian slasher from 40 years ago. It's only once the killings begin in earnest that things get interesting. 

"Interesting" unfortunately isn't synonymous with "good." The murder setpieces in Patrick Still Lives are a challenging lot to grapple with. I will lead with the fact that the special effects bringing them to life are uniformly superb for the time, and the movie's endless variations on gruesome kills are shockingly ahead of their time for a pre-Friday the 13th motion picture (technically it debuted in Italy a week after Friday, but they were produced contemporaneously is what I'm saying).

I know you actually don't care about the specifics, but I do. You don't watch slashers almost exclusively for eight years and not get a little in your head about it.

Every kill in Patrick Still Lives is brutal, but there are only two that perfectly ride the line between intense and entertaining: a man who gets a wicked metal hook jammed through his lower jaw, and a woman who is slowly, methodically, decapitated by a car window. Then there's the medium level: the first and final body count kills (where a man dies in a pool of boiling water and a woman is mauled by dogs) aren't particularly visually dynamic, even if the effects for both are above par for similar scenes in other movies of the time. The absolute lowest tier is the pair of kills that just involve poison, which don't require interesting special effects.

OK, enough beating around the bush. There's one kill here that is... challenging. Typically what I look for in a slasher movie kill is a unique premise and convincing, over-the-top special effects. This kill certainly has that, but it takes the sexual violence that simmers beneath the entire motion picture and pitches it right the hell up to 11. For the un-squeamish, here's what happens: A woman is skewered with a spit, which enters through her vagina and comes out through her mouth. It's certainly well-realized, probably the most impressive effect in the entire film. But coming at the end of a dozen scenes of cavalier exploitation and objectification, it's impossible to not feel icky about it. I'm not one for the censorship of art, especially exploitation and pornography (assuming they were created with properly consenting performers), but a conscientious viewer must come to this scene with a very particular mindset that I don't find myself capable of.

Even setting aside that particular scene, the impressive effects don't quite make up for the hour and change spent wandering around the villa with its desperately uninteresting characters while listening to a score that sounds like a Goblin tribute band covering the Exorcist theme. It's not an altogether unwatchable slice of giallo sexploitation, and it has some amusing campy moments (ie. Dr. Herschel tries to write off Lyndon's clearly boiled skin as a side effect of alcoholism), but at the end of the day I'd just rather watch Patrick, you know?

Killer: Patrick (Sacha Pitoëff)
Final Girl: Lidya Grant (Andrea Belfiore)
Best Kill: I'd have to say the car window to the neck, which is brutal in its ceaseless repetitive slamming and convincing geysers of blood.
Sign of the Times: Well, there really was only a tiny window of time in which anyone could have made a sequel to Patrick.
Scariest Moment: A hypnotically hornified Lidya licks the metal post of Patrick's bed. Think of the germs!
Weirdest Moment: Stella discovers Davis' mutilated body and to calm herself down, she wets her breasts at a nearby fountain.
Champion Dialogue: "I usually bang women, not whisky bottles."
Body Count: 8; not including the 3 unnamed host bodies fueling Patrick's telekinesis, who presumably die during the third act when he drains their energy.
  1. Lyndon Cough is boiled in a swimming pool.
  2. Davis is hung from a hook by the bottom of his chin.
  3. Stella Cough is skewered on a spit via the vagina.
  4. Sheril Randolph is decapitated by a car window.
  5. Peter Suniak is poisoned with carbon monoxide.
  6. Brad is electrocuted.
  7. Meg is mauled by German shepherds.
  8. Dr. Herschel is stabbed in the heart with a hypodermic needle.
TL;DR: Patrick Still Lives is a rather rote erotic giallo until it briefly becomes a very good gore picture.
Rating: 5/10
Word Count: 1278

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